CALEXICO — For the first time since Luis Hernandez took over the position as Steppling Art Gallery director in 2014, the gallery had its first art exhibit during the summer months at San Diego State University Imperial Valley Campus in Calexico.
Since June, the gallery featured a selection of acrylic paintings by Calexico-based artist Israel Carrillo Madrid. According to Hernandez, the nine acrylic paintings and one structure panel installation had been on display at the gallery and will continue until the end of August. However, the artist’s reception was held mid-summer on Thursday evening.
Hernandez said the art show’s theme, “Individualities,” depicted disparate characters, iconography and narratives from the desert regions of Mexicali, the Imperial, and Coachella valleys.
Madrid described himself as a border artist who attempts to depict both sides of the borders of Mexico and the United States of America. He said one of his favorites is an acrylic painting on canvas of his pet dog, Tzontli. According to Madrid, Tzontli was with him for three years before passing away seven years ago.
The painting depicts the dog sitting on a single sofa chair, facing an electric fan as if trying to cool off from the breeze — its snout almost touching on the fan’s blades. In the background is a sun setting behind a mountain range.
Another painting he discussed was “Old Man,” who, according to Madrid, depicts time. The acrylic on wood painting features a white bearded man reclining on a stylized silhouette of a mountain range. He wears a robe with a hood covering his head. On the mountain range, silhouetted against a warm background, are modern day windmills and electric relay towers occupying the center of the painting.
On the upper left side of the painting are golden elephant heads symbolizing casinos, the artist said. Beneath them is a golden lion’s head with an open mouth. Inside the mouth of the lion is a female, wearing a red dress symbolizing blood. She sits on a chair overflowing with red fluid emanating from the chair and dripping down the stairs.
At the event, guests were offered croissant sandwiches, strawberries, grapes and chocolate cake. Ice cold fruit juice and cold water helped to cool off the attendees who braved the outside 111 degree temperature to attend the reception. Room temperature inside the gallery registered at 86.5F on the wall thermostat.
Madrid, wiping the sweat from his face, said he has a concurrent art exhibition at Centro Estatal de las Artes in Mexicali, Mexico. The theme of the Mexican-side exhibit is “Frontera Ecléctica” which began July 20, continuing until August 27. The exhibit is free and is open to the public.
Hernandez said the exhibit at Steppling Art Gallery (see Facebook) is free, but available by appointment only during the summertime.